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Body Kindness: Reclaiming Your Body

(Forward by Jennifer L. Zauner, LCSWR)
The following is a wonderful article by our intern Jade. It spotlights the important work and writings of Rebecca Scritchfield, who focuses on cultivating a true body kindness approach.
This approach creates a more harmonious link between mind and body. It emphasizes placing importance on healthy habits, actions, and mindsets versus weight and size numbers, and restricting.

Embracing body kindness is particularly important in this time of Covid health concerns. Our practice has experienced an explosion of Binge Eating Disorder referrals. There is an uptick of people soothing themselves with excessive food intake. This is leading to unavoidable weight gain. According to research by the National Institutes of Health, obesity is a confirmed factor in Covid-19 disease severity. All the studies cited confirmed that obesity was associated with an increased risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, intubation and death.

All eating disorders have a negative impact on health and metabolism, which weakens the immune system. This puts a person at higher risk for catching diseases, and suffering more severely from them. Immediate treatment for yourself or loved ones lowers the risk of Covid severity. Our therapists at Sirona Therapy are experts in effectively treating eating disorders.

Cultivating Kindness

How do you feel about your body? Does that question make you squirm at the sight of reading it? That’s the case for many of us, and it’s not our fault. We have been immersed in a society that teaches us that there is a “right” body type. If our bodies don’t meet this rigid criterion, we may automatically identify our body as the “wrong” type. When we reject our bodies, we are denying ourselves and all the natural greatness harnessed within us. This body invalidation can be especially harmful to your self-esteem. So what can we do to break the vicious cycle of body rejection? Cultivating body kindness and body respect can tremendously change the way you feel in your own skin!

Registered dietician nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield coined the concept of body kindness and all of its glory. Unlike dieting, body kindness doesn’t have a strict set of rules to follow. It’s a self-care-based mindset grounded on the belief that health begins with being kind to yourself. But what exactly does it mean to be kind to your body? Stritchfield’s book, “Body Kindness,” explains how to gain freedom, peace, and confidence by asking the universal question: “Is this helping to create a better life for me?” All quotes in this article are all from Strictchfield’s book “Body Kindness”.

Body Kindness is built on three kindness pillars:

  1. Love: The willingness to love yourself.
  2. Connect: Trust based on connection by allowing your body to help guide your choices.
  3. Care: To build trust, you make body-kind choices to show your body you care.

Body Kindness uses these pillars to build a structure for creating habits that improve your health without the goal of weight loss. So get rid of that scale! Throw it out, donate it, or even smash it, just say good riddance! When you treat your body like it is a problem that needs to lose weight, you carry shame in numbers that weigh you down. This leads to avoiding behaviors instead of making positive changes. The reality is that it isn’t your body that needs to get rid of weight; it’s your mind. I know it is easier said than done. But think about it like this: Imagine if your friend or loved one was experiencing the same feelings about their body as you do about yours. How would you respond to them?

Include Yourself As A Best Friend

Sirona Therapy Westchester Putnam Rockland counties New York Body Kindness blog 1st image“Whether you want to do better at honoring your personal values or you need to call a truce in an all-out war against yourself, body kindness offers a framework for transforming your relationship with you. Befriending yourself is the next important step you will take toward a healthier and happier life. The benefits of a strong bond between your heart, body, and mind include feeling more positive emotions, easier decision-making, and trusting in the process of behavior change, even in the midst of setbacks. Respecting who you already are will help you become the person you want to be.”

Acceptance Leads To Kindness

We are not supposed to be in a constant battle against our own bodies. Body image does not relate much to actual shape or size but instead is about your perception of your body. When you give yourself permission to accept and appreciate your body, a healthy body image will manifest. Body kindness helps shift your focus to working with your present beliefs to make new experiences and change your perception. The Body Kindness Manifesto is a blueprint to guide you towards developing a more caring relationship with your body. You may want to keep this handy; I keep it taped in my notebook as a cheat sheet for when I need an extra reminder to be good to myself!

The Body Kindness Manifesto:

  • I take care of my body every day in meaningful ways, practicing love, connection, and caring.
  • Decisions that enhance my health and happiness are best for my well-being.
  • All my health efforts, big and small, make a difference in my energy and mindset.
  • I don’t have to change everything in my life right now.
  • I’m allowed to struggle and make mistakes in self-care. When I’m having difficulty, I can see it as an opportunity for growth, not a judgment on my worthiness.
  • I respect my body as it is right now, even if I wish I could change it.
  • Nurturing my most valued relationships and taking time for myself is just as crucial to my well-being as what I eat and how much I exercise.

Plant Good Seeds

What I love about body kindness is how it plants the seeds that grow both your self-care practice and social life simultaneously. The approach is all about making connections with your body to create loving choices, which gradually take over your life in the shape of pleasurable habits. You will still be you at the core, but when less time is spent on destructive thoughts that arise in your head, your inner self has so much more energy to align with your own values. Not only that, but this newly created headspace will also allow more time to engage with people and offer more to your relationships, which is an act of self-care in itself.

Body kindness is taking your mental health seriously, understanding the relationship between your body and mind. Your unique set of values and beliefs are a launchpad for change. Instead of using the mindset of limiting behaviors, recognize your values and create goals in alignment with them. As Stritchfield writes, “Enjoying pleasant things helps to increase your energy and attitude, as well as decreases the chance of being triggered to eat emotionally.” Body kindness is the hardest when you don’t feel capable of working through what is coming towards you. Cultivating skills to help you shift your mindset into redefining adversity as an organic part of life and potential for growth will help you gain resilience.

Putting It Into Practice

Practicing body kindness supports a healthier body image. Even when you feel the most overwhelmed, ask yourself if having a poor body image is worth sacrificing in the pursuit of your goals to build a better life. It will be hard at times, and you may want to give up; behaviors do not change perfectly. Mistakes can help us learn more about ourselves which helps us grow.

You Can Transform

Sirona Therapy Westchester Putnam Rockland counties New York Body Kindness blog 2nd imageRemember, you are stronger than you perceive. Hold onto this as you think about your values and goals because if you’re anything like me, you might hear that voice in your head judging your thoughts and fogging up your mind. Instead of trying to slam the door on these thoughts or letting them occupy your mind, simply open the door and allow them in, show them to the exit door and be on your merry way.

Even if you don’t feel it at this moment, you truly can accept and even love your body. Body kindness guides the path to build a life worth living for you. “What that life looks like is up to you.” You got this!!!!!

Want to continue your body image journey? Stay tuned for my part 2 article on Reclaiming Your Body: Body Respect coming soon!

Sirona Therapy Westchester Putnam Rockland Intern Jade Sherman Blog Post Picture
Jade Sherman
Sirona Therapy

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